1 John 2:12-14
I Write to You
Proverbs 25:11 tells us: “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.” In other words, saying the right thing at the right time and in the right manner is a wonderful gift that few of us have; and, of all people, preachers need it most. A preacher must know when to prod the sheep and when to ease up, when to admonish and when to comfort. And he can’t be fearful to do either one. If he’s doing it right, your pastor has a difficult task that requires wisdom and discernment. Furthermore, sheep need to be able to listen to the hard word just as willingly as the easy word. And I dare say that pastors must be able to receive as they give. Such makes for a holy, humble people.
That’s what I like to think John is doing here. These six parallel clauses baffle scholars. Why are they here? Why are they written the way they are written? Why these three classes of people? No one really knows. They seem to come out of the blue—some poetic lines sandwiched between teaching about keeping the commandments and warnings about the world and antichrists. What purpose do these six clauses serve?
I don’t pretend to know the answer, but I wonder if John is stopping to take a break from the heavier matters he has covered: Our Lord’s coming in the flesh, his being our advocate at the side of the Father, his propitiation, walking in the light, keeping the commandments, and loving one another. I wonder if he is stopping to encourage his readers before moving on to other weighty matters. He reminds the children, perhaps new believers, that their sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake and that through him have come to know the Father. He encourages the fathers, perhaps those who have long been believers, that they have not only known the Father but know His greatness, His eternity, His omnipotence, and His steadfast love as well. And he encourages the young men to exercise their strength in the midst of temptation, which tends to be the time when temptations for men are strongest. He tells them that the word of God abides in them and thereby implores them to stand fast and resist in the strength of that word. The fact that the Apostle repeats himself with each group further shows his deep concern to encourage them to righteous living.
John has some stern warnings ahead; he needed to stop and lift them up. There are dark days ahead for the Church in America. We must be about the task of lifting one another up. For, “a fitly word spoken….”